Clevedon Hills – An exhibition of boutique brilliance.
The FWDC team enjoyed a memorable tasting today with Leighton Smith – For most of the team it was their first opportunity of tasting the entire line up of wines in one sitting… 2011 Arneis came first and it's lifted and precise aromatics of fresh apple, stone fruits, florals and spices lit up the room from the moment the glass was swirled. To taste, it's a wonderfully weighted and textured wine, dry in style yet succulent and very refreshing. Lovers of the finest dry Pinot Gris will find new Eden in this wine as will fans of quality chardonnay tending towards the Kumeu River style. Smith calls it the ultimate seafood wine, and having matched it with everything from crayfish dipped in lemon aioli, roasted Hapuka in a crème and caper sauce and of course fresh Clevedon oysters, I would be hard pressed to recommend another wine that fits so perfectly with this genre of cuisine. Without doubt it's the finest example of Arneis made in NZ and if anything must be tasted if only to reinvigorate your white wine enjoyment.
Next was 2010 Pinot Noir, which although lighter in colour than most Martinborough offerings and certainly Otago, it was nothing short of amazing in the aromatics department and packing serious depth and flavour on the palate. Anto Coates (Wine program Director) commented that “it was a perfect example that you must never dismiss a wine, especially Pinot Noir based on its colour”. Stylistically if you had to compare it with another region, it's definitely more Martinborough than anything else but has the structure and length more often associated with burgundy. Showing dark cherry, forest floor and savoury spice flavours it has an addictive sweet/savoury contrast and a long mouthwatering finish. Otago drinkers probably won't get it, but pour this wine in quality glassware to a collector of serious Martinborough styles at twice the price and they will be singing its praises. Personally I love drinking this wine at my local Chinese restaurant, Canton Café with Roast rather than Peking Duck (more sauce, more fat) not great for the waistline but sensational on the senses.
Last and leaving a permanent impression on our entire team was the 2010 Syrah. I tasted this wine from Barrel a few years back and was completely gob smacked! It was easily in the top 5 Syrah I had tasted over the entire 2009/2010 vintages and still unfinished. Now at 4 years from vintage, it's beginning to develop into something spectacular and its pedigree will be obvious to any serious syrah drinker. Although it will and has come up trumps in “taste offs” against top draw Hawke's Bay and Waiheke Syrah, when it comes to style it's a truly unique and exciting wine. We found ourselves smelling the wine for minutes with new complexities emerging upon every swirl. With everything from dark fruits to florals, smoked meats, tar, star anise, exotic spices and cracked black pepper on offer. It has an abundance of weight and richness through the palate but is beautifully balanced and although very much in its youth and with many more secrets to reveal through 2018/2020 it's accessible and brilliant with game inspired cuisine. (Grown on Leighton's vineyard and made by the team at Villa Maria)
All in all the current range of Clevedon Hills wines are excellent and offer further proof of this tiny sub regions potential in the production of top quality wines.